Cambodia makes indigenous car, Vietnam falling behind neighbors

By Le Thanh Phong, Thanh Nien News. Original Vietnamese story by Lao Dong

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Vietnam's lagging behind its neighbors has nothing to do with its people’s intelligence
Nhean Phaloek and his Angkor EV 2014, Cambodia’s first locally-made electric car, which was unveiled on February 14/ PHOTO: VNA
Many Vietnamese people consider Cambodia as a small country whose economy is poorer than Vietnam.
Indeed, the World Bank’s 2012 GDP (gross domestic product) ranking showed that Vietnam ranked 62nd with US$155.82 billion and its neighboring country, 125th with over $14 billion.
However, this trivial neighbor recently shocked not only Vietnam but also the entire international community by unveiling its first locally made electric car Angkor EV 2014.
Designed by Nhean Phaloek and produced by the local Heng Development Company, the car can be controlled with smart phones and achieves a top speed of 60 kilometers. Fully charged, it goes 300 kilometers.
A spokesperson for the manufacturer told the local media that a $20-million factory has been built to make the car which would be priced at less than $10,000.
Though Angkor EV 2014 uses some imported parts and has flaws in its design as pointed out by auto enthusiasts, the fact that Cambodia is now able to produce its own car promises a boost to its auto industry.
The news has left many Vietnamese either jealous – since the country lacks auto plants and cars have to be imported, it is impossible to buy a car at $10,000 – or “ashamed” because their poorer neighbor has obviously leapfrogged them.
“I felt sorry for us because Vietnam’s automobile manufacturing industry started very long before Cambodia’s but is now falling behind,” Nguyen Manh Hung, former chairman of the Vietnam Automobile Transportation Association, told a local newspaper.
In 1970 La Dalat, a Vietnamese car with up to 40 percent of parts produced locally, was introduced in the south. But the local auto industry has never developed ever since.
Giant manufacturers like Mazda and Ford even had to move their auto projects to neighboring countries, because they could not find quality parts here, including basic items like screws and electrical wire.
While many of its neighbors are still amazed at its electric car, Cambodia has recently announced that it is going to export rice to the US and South Korea. It has already conquered Europe.
Vietnam, despite being the world’s biggest rice exporter last year, relies mostly on China and some other neighboring countries.
In other words, Cambodian rice is proving its high quality in demanding markets while Vietnamese rice is still of poor quality. For years Vietnam’s best rice varieties lost out to Thai rice and the country is obviously now falling behind even Cambodia.
Clearly, the country’s lagging behind its neighbors has nothing to do with its people’s intelligence.
In the auto industry, for instance, Vietnam has many good engineers who are fully capable of producing electric cars like Cambodia did, according to Hung.
But Vietnam badly lacks policies which can encourage innovation, help strengthen the local supporting industries, and persuade local businesses to follow global trends like producing electric cars, he said.

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